When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.” -Viktor Frankl
This quote from Dr. Frankl feels like a gut punch to me. The pandemic has been a season of shifting and re-prioritizing what bring us all meaning. We’ve lost many of those “pleasures” that were a welcome distraction before the pandemic. And so much of our meaning makers have been taken away- time with friends, travel with our family, carefree time together. It’s been put on hold indefinitely.
What do we do when it feels like the rug has been ripped out from under us?
It’s a scary place to be. We have a choice to cling on to those pleasures hoping they keep us afloat until we find normalcy again (if we find normalcy again). Or we can reflect.
What is my purpose in life?
What can I contribute?
What can I give back to my family, my community?
We can start with what we have and what we value in life. And then do something small with it.
Finding meaning in your life is THE BIG QUESTION. I wonder if we’ll all look back on this season and see it as a turning point for in our lives. For now, we can spend some time reflecting on this questions.
Like you’re under water. You’re paddling just to survive. It’s impossible to think about what’s best, what you need, where you’re headed. It’s a stress-filled reactive place. It’s fear and it’s survival mode. And yet it’s the temptation to run away or quit. It’s discouraged and yet not enough energy to come up with a new plan. It’s a horrible place to be stuck.
In the world we live in now, burn out is everywhere. How can we not be burned out with all the taxes on our energy leaving us exhausted. While the joys of our lives were whisked away with the rising pandemic numbers. Many of us processing our big life choices now too! All while trying to survive, keep our jobs, keep our sanity.
The only thing to do with burn out is rest. It’s not time to quit and run away, at least yet. It’s not time to make drastic changes. It’s not time shame ourselves into just TRYING HARDER. Yeah right.
Rest. Read that again. Rest. When you read that, what barriers come up to you resting? What blocks do you have?
It’s so hard to carve out space for this but it’s so important to remind yourself of the quiet and constant moments of your life. Whether that’s time at the lake, a walk, a night away in a hotel, a long drive.
If you need to talk more about burnout, contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parents, I know back to school is a stressful time for everyone. ESPECIALLY right now, we’re all facing fears and changes that aren’t easy.
When your kid isn’t coping very well- it can be tough to figure out what’s going on.
- Is it anxiety?
- Is it just worry?
- Is it rebellion?
We want to clarify what anxiety looks like in kids. Anxiety in kids looks different than it does in adults. Our in house child therapist, Kate Miller, explains the difference…
Anxiety can look like hyperactivity
Anxiety in kids (especially young kids) can look like the inability to be still (in ways that are usually normal for them) and the inability to focus. This can sometimes be identified as ADD or ADHD when it is really anxiety.
Anxiety can look like regression.
Anxiety in kids can look like regression in development, which can be, having accidents after being consistently potty trained, returning to baby talk or renewed separation anxiety.
Anxiety can look like becoming withdrawn or frozen.
Anxiety in kids can look like a lack of interest in the things that they used to be important to them. This can be school, sports or friendships.
So what can you do about it?
It’s important to try to identify what’s going on with your kid. Sometimes we see the “negative” behaviors our kids have and think it’s an attitude problem or something that needs to be corrected. But if you see these more specific behaviors, it may be anxiety. As a parent when your kid is anxious what they need most is someone to listen- even to the irrational fears. “My teacher hates me” or “I’m never going back to school!” They can try to release that tension in irrational ways- but if we can respond with compassion first, they will feel heard. When a kid feels heard, it’s much easier for them to calm down. Once they’re calm, you can talk about how to express their emotions differently, you can bring in consequences (it’s ok to feel anxious about going back to school, but it’s not ok to refuse to get in the car in the morning).
One more thing to remember: when you’re dealing with your kid’s mental health, always reach out for more help! Ask the school counselor or talk to a family therapist.
I remember growing up in the church having this idea that every decision I made was a path toward sin or righteousness. Even the clothes I wore were seen as bad or good. A value statement was put on what movies I watched (I’m talking like Disney movies, not X rated), we had to be careful about what we wore and what slang words we used (oh my gosh was too close to oh my god). I started to view my life like I was preparing for judgement. Whether before God or before the people around me- my community, my leaders. It was all about my performance, the choices I made were a sign of whether I was devoted enough my christianity.
I think this is a common experience in the modern church. The message you receive is that your choices and your behavior prove whether I belong (more on belonging in the church later…). This over-scrupulousness is what can attach itself to us, even after we’ve moved out of that kind of religious culture. It can feel like there is one narrow path you must walk down to be “enough” or to be “good enough.”
Our past religious experiences teaches us to submit to a moral and virtuous life. As I have walked with clients through these experiences, I see there is so much value in letting your life be guided by a moral code and by the love of a higher power. I think it can lead to growth and health and a love for your God. It’s also is an important part of your story and identity.
But I have also seen people deeply wounded by the church of their past. Sometimes the church can engulf our sense of self and holds us to an impossible standard in order to belong.
Many of my clients process this kind of inner conflict. In therapy we work on letting go of legalism and self-criticism, and holding on to those beliefs that bring hope and healing. It’s a necessary step in taking ownership of our faith as adults.
I talk more about deconstructing your faith and how to handle doubt here.
Written by Morgan Myers, LPC
A little about me… I help people who feel boxed in by self-doubt, criticism and the expectations of others. Some people come to me burned out and wanting to understand where they went wrong. Some come in to process their past pain from church and religion- rejection, dark night of the soul, legalism, or doubt in God. It can be so difficult to even know what we need, let alone asking for those needs to be met. Many of my clients are trying to cope with depression or stress from this season of life. Sometimes we work on healing their past pain so they can grow and move on. More about me here.
1. Self-doubt=fear- Let go of fear by naming it for what it is.
And no one ever made a good decision out of fear.
It’s easy to let our lives take the shape of whatever we’re reacting to, whatever we’re retreating from. Like being afraid to take a risk in a relationship and feeling more isolated, afraid to speak up for what you believe and let the conversation continue while you’re feeling more and more unconfortable. Being led by fear inevitably leads you down path you never intended to go down. If you want to change course, you have to release your fear first. This looks like naming it. “I’m afraid to be vulnerable with my husband because he may reject me.” “I’m afraid to say what I think about social justice because I’ll be labeled as liberal or judgmental.” Sometimes just naming your fears to yourself can be freeing.
2. Disobey that voice inside that says you “should _________”
In an effort to grow or change, we cut ourselves off at the knees and box ourselves in. One little life-hack I like to do is disobey that little voice. We all have the subconscious rules for ourselves- we can only speak for so long in conversations, we can’t disagree with someone, we aren’t the kind of person who speaks up for what we need. This can really begin to box you in. Try to disobey these rules sometimes and see how it feels! If your self-doubt keeps you from speaking up, try disobeying it. If you have a rule about how much you speak in a conversation, go on talking!
3. Know the difference between fear and wisdom.
Fear overgeneralizes, projects into the future (when we actually have no idea what the future holds), fear has a negative bias about the possibilities and our capabilities. Wisdom sounds like cautious consideration and openness. Wisdom does it’s due diligence but is willing to take risks. Wisdom is usually found by asking around, doing research, AND trusting your gut.Does this make sense? Does this hit home?
A little about me:
A little about me… I help women who feel boxed in by self-doubt, criticism and the expectations of others. Some women come to me burned out and wanting to understand where they went wrong. Sometimes women come in to process their past pain from church and religion- rejection, dark night of the soul, legalism, or doubt in God. It can be so difficult to even know what we need, let alone asking for those needs to be met. Many of my clients are trying to cope with depression or stress from this season of life. Sometimes we work on healing their past pain so they can grow and move on. More about me here.
I walk along side you through the pain and self-awareness into a happier more hopeful life.
I also have a side-project called Motherlift. I founded it alongside my Doula sister- Macy Morrow. Motherlift is an educational platform for mothers in every stage of motherhood. We help women from pregnancy through parenting cope with all the changes, chaos, and challenges that come with the role of motherhood. It’s a total blast! Check it out here.
By Morgan Myers, LPC therapist to burned out mamas (read more about Morgan here)
1. Your kids are as anxious as you are!
We’re all anxious as we think about the risks of returning to school during a pandemic! The visual of walking up to your kids school, everyone in a mask, no one social distancing, germs, and coughing and all of it! It’s overwhelming! Your kids are taking in all of that too. They are processing the fact that they haven’t been in a classroom for 6 months. We all know what our anxiety feels and looks like. Kid’s anxiety can look like:
- Whining and complaining
- Fixating on the plan and the variables
- Wanting to escape
- Getting aggressive
- Extra tired
- Overly emotional
- Bigger fits and meltdowns
2. Your kids NEED socialization
Whether you’ve decided to send your kids back in person or keeping them home until the risk lessens, we’re all having to juggle all of our kid’s needs. Obviously their physical health is really important, but consider their emotional health and social development. In case you’re feeling guilty about planning play dates, or getting them back in school, they will benefit from being with other kids. Their brains need to be reminded about social skills, self-control in the classroom, not being bossy (speaking from experience!), learning competence, etc etc. So as their parent, remember not to leave out this aspect of their little bodies and brains! It’s easy to focus on the physical risks, but there are benefits to being around other kids too!
3. In light of all of this above, be kind to your self and show your kids some grace.
We’re all taking in A LOT of change right now! Our lives are almost unrecognizable from what it was this time last year. So show yourself some grace, and when your kid is balling on the floor, or whining for another snack, or trying to control the outcome of everything, give them some grace too. This is how kids respond to situations out of their control (and I would guess its the way we respond to situations out of our control too).
For more on parenting and motherhood, check out my side project @Motherlift on instagram.
You (& your child) get to decide how and when to share your child’s diagnosis and details related to their functioning with people even when they ask. Being curious doesn’t entitle someone to an answer. It can be helpful to have a planned response for such times, such as: “ Thanks for being concerned/interested in (child’s name). We choose not to discuss that with you right now.”
1. Have an “elevator pitch answer” ready to go.
Sometimes people will ask about your child’s difference and you may want a quick way to explain it. Think of this like the elevator pitch that salespeople learn. They have a speech where they can pitch their product in the time it takes the elevator to get them to their floor. I have Cerebral Palsy and my elevator speech to a curious adult is, “Thanks for asking. My diagnosis is Cerebral Palsy. It is a neurological problem caused by premature birth and it affects my balance and the tightness of the muscles in my legs.” I also explain this to kids a lot, in the playroom at work and in public places like the grocery store. I usually say something like this, “ You’re really paying attention! You noticed that I walk differently from other people. I have Cerebral Palsy, that means that my brain which is like a big computer has a little difference. Instead of telling my muscles to work like most people’s do, my brain tells my muscles to be tight all the time and my body is always a little off balance.”
2. Look to your child to see how much is appropriate to share.
If your child is able, discuss with them how and when they want to discuss their difference with friends, classmates, etc. If they are unable to communicate verbally, pay attention to the ways they do communicate with you to gauge their awareness and level of comfort with these conversations and adjust accordingly.
3. Sometimes it’s helpful to officially share about your child’s differences
For some families, it feels most helpful to have the child address their class at the beginning of the school year and explain their difference so that they can have some more control over how their difference is understood.
4. This isn’t the end all be all, you can adjust the way you communicate at each developmental stage.
These conversations will need to be tweaked over time as your child grows both developmentally and socially. Sometimes different people or situations will require different conversations. Be willing to shape and change your explanations, as it feels right to you, your child and your family. Trust yourself and your child when navigating these situations. Also, be patient with yourself and your child. These conversations may bring up difficult feelings or painful interactions.
5. Remember to prioritize self-care!
Having conversations where you or your kid explain their difference can be difficult but even when they are good conversations they can still leave you feeling depleted. Self-care is important. This could be journaling, going for a run or making time to talk to trusted friends. Your child also needs self-care during this time. It can be time alone doing a favorite activity or engaging with family or friends to play or talk through their feelings.
By Kate Miller, LPC
As adults, it is easy to edit our childhood memories to an idyllic time in our lives. It’s true there are things about childhood that are wonderful: having long summer days to play, ride bikes, play Barbies or get lost in the Harry Potter series until your parents tell you to come home to eat a dinner you didn’t have to plan, cook, or pay for. You could just be a kid.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t always look like a scene from the movie The Sandlot. The reality of childhood often looks different from our rose-colored memories. There are lots of challenges and transitions that children feel deeply leaving them feeling: disconnected, frustrated, scared, anxious or afraid. There are many challenges that children face and just as some adults handle changes differently the same is true for children. So, while for some the transition from one school to another is exciting and new friends are made easily, other children will struggle to find their place there. Your best friend’s oldest child may have easily transitioned from being the only child to being the big sister and took on her new role with excitement. However, your child is throwing multiple tantrums every day (maybe even after you thought the tantrum phase was over) and trying to send the new baby back to the hospital (or worse)! You may find yourself wondering what you’re doing wrong, that your child cannot adjust to normal life transitions.
Childhood may have brought challenges to your child’s life that even you struggle to understand and accept. Maybe your child has a been diagnosed with a disability or ADD, anxiety or another child mental health disorder. You may find yourself grappling with how to help your child. It’s so easy to have endless what-ifs, doctor’s appointments…
It is often the case that when a child is given a serious diagnosis all of the family’s focus and energy goes to the child with the diagnosis and the sibling or siblings can feel lost and forgotten. You may find yourself feeling completely unprepared to parent in these circumstances.
For your family this may not be ‘a difficult season’ but ‘your ongoing reality’ and you find yourself feeling overwhelmed.
If you found yourself resonating with any of these scenarios, take courage, there is help and hope. Your child is not ruined or lost forever. They need support to find their voice, process their pain and find their own way to connect and contribute to others. Play therapy can help children and parents on this journey. They will not have the idyllic childhood of our edited memories (because those childhoods are only real in our imaginations) but there are moments of connection and fulfillment yet to come.
Play therapy is a developmentally appropriate way for children to process what is going on in their lives. We are highly trained and ready to meet with you. Read more about our child therapist here.
These are unprecedented times. As soon as we seem to have a handle on things: business, entertainment venues and places of worship are opening up again, COVID numbers spike, there are more closures and most school districts have delayed the beginning of school in person to after Labor day. Living with the threat of a dangerous illness, wearing masks everywhere we go and having no one including– the government and the healthcare community– knows when the pandemic will come to an end.
Everyone agrees that quantity time spending time with your kids is important and valuable, but it is way more challenging when this quantity time goes on and on! These days families feel on top of one another all the time especially since parents are working remotely and for kids summer camp and family vacations have been cancelled this year. On top of all of these disappointing cancellations, there’s distance from important family and friends, financial difficulties and fear of illness that feels immanent.
Both parents and kids are carrying around a lot of extra stress these days. It is easy to become irritable or overwhelmed (sometimes without even knowing why) and self-care for adults and kids is more important than ever. Here are some self-care practices that may help your family function better during COVID-19.
Create a new structure
It can feel great to take a Saturday and sleep in, have everyone wear their pajamas all day, watch movies all day and get mark absolutely nothing off your to-do list. But now that we are all home together much more often it can be helpful to have a schedule including meal (& snack) times, getting dressed, work and educational time, do chores, time for physical exercise, time to intentionally connect with your partner and your kids (even though you’re home together all the time, date nights, one on one time, focused family time still need to be a priority you can all count on), engaging in spiritual practices and a consistent bedtime, for kids and grown-ups
2. Be flexible
Schedules are important to help everyone feel secure, but life in a pandemic is unpredictable. Flexibility is required and parenting guilt isn’t helpful for anyone. You may work hard to limit your kids’ screen time and encourage indoor and outdoor play but maybe you have a day full of important zoom meetings and the only way you can guarantee your kids will stay occupied and won’t interrupt your meeting with questions like, “Where is my light saber?” or “Can I use the paints now?” is letting your kids have ongoing access to the iPad. Life is about balance. Sometimes you make a healthy dinner and your kids eat every bite and other times you order pizza and call it a day. The same will be true with your kids some days they might be eager to learn or excited to help fold the laundry. Other days they might beg for more screen time all day long or melt down when you ask them to do something as simple as putting their plate in the sink. Sometimes it’s best to set firm limits and other times you just need to read them a bedtime story and try again tomorrow.
3. Voice your feelings (and take others’ feelings seriously)
Of course, there are the big things like the family vacation to Disney is cancelled or the family reunion is put off until the Fall, are big disappointments. Make sure you are aware of your own feelings about these losses: anxiety, sadness, frustration, irritation or maybe even relief. Just like you can feel lots of different things at once so can your kids. Make time to process your own feelings. Help your kids identify their own feelings and express them in a healthy way. An example might be: Using a feelings chart to help kids identify their feelings and then letting them express their feelings by drawing or releasing pent up frustration on the trampoline in the backyard. The earlier you can tackle your (& your child’s feelings) the better, stuffing feelings leads to emotional complications. If things feel out of control often or if your child seems to be regressing, it may be time to consider therapy either in person or with telehealth.
4. Find ways to stay connected with important people outside of your family
It is a loss to not have the summer to spend with friends and extended family members. For some families it helps to have regular FaceTime dates with grandma and grandpa or having the neighbors over while maintaining social distance with each family playing on their own driveway or sending fun care packages to the cousins every few weeks.
4. Look for new things to celebrate and new ways to relax
Before COVID you may have looked forward to a weekly date night with your spouse but pandemic date night may be date night in once or twice a week. Instead of going out to dinner or to the movies you could order in new foods or cook family favorites together. Also, you could introduce your kids to your favorite childhood movies this summer. Maybe instead of spending one on one time with your son while your daughter has her weekly ballet lessons you can take a walk around the neighborhood or take him to Sonic for slushies once a week.
Parenting during a pandemic is incredibly challenging, but it can become a time when your family grows even closer to one another. If you are intentional, flexible, attentive and creative your family will grow individually and as a unit.
Read more about our therapists at East Dallas Psychotherapy to see how we can help you cope with the anxieties and stress of this season.
“Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love. It is that inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change.”
― Richard Rohr
I don’t think beat up, broken, and shameful humans were ever God’s intention for us. But we can so often over-correct when we search our own hearts for wayward ways. We magnify God’s judgement, and forget about God’s grace.
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”
I think we all agree it’s harmful to throw stones at others for their flaws. And we have no right to say we have the perfect standard to measure them against. But as a therapist, I think that we can have a part of us that holds the “perfect standard” and we measure ourselves, our behaviors, our beliefs against that perfect standard. We’re casting stones at ourselves. If we can’t hold others to that standard, why do we hold ourselves to that standard?
I believe we can embrace our doubt and our belief, our devoutness and our relativism, our woundedness with the church and our healing experiences with God. If we can hold all of these together we’re practicing grace. To put it in psychological terms, we developing a more flexible view of ourselves and the world, which is always healthier than shame and self-judgement.
All of this I have seen first hand in my own faith. I have, and still do, grapple with deep doubt. I have experienced spiritual wounding from leaders I believed in. I am still reconciling my past experiences in God with my concept of God now. From that place of understanding, I work to bring the spiritual life and psychology together in my approach to therapy.
Many of the concerns my clients have:
- Processing deconstructing their faith
- Over-moralizing their choices
- Unable to let go of failures- even as they are trying to embrace more freedom
- A harsh inner critic
- Shame about the decisions they have made because they differ from what they were taught growing up
- Wanting clarity on what to throw out and what to hold onto, when it comes to their faith
- Confusing about their past experience with God which may or may not align with current their beliefs
- Wanting to embrace freedom without judgement of yourself
- Feeling confident about choices around naysayers
- Learning to embrace and integrate their faith now